Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“A Stunning Show”: Theatr Clwyd Co-production in Edinburgh

Out of Love

Theatr Clwyd, Paines Plough, & Orange Tree Theatre , Roundabout @ Summerhall , August-10-17
Out of Love by Theatr Clwyd, Paines Plough, & Orange Tree Theatre Theatr Clwyd had a co-production in recent years with one of the greatest musicals in the canon. “Guys and Dolls” was a big show that played in Swansea and at the co-producing venues in Salisbury and Ipswich. Tamara Harvey's co-producers are of proven high quality, the shows are smaller, more tourable and set to be seen widely.

The critical acclaim in Wales has been repeated in Scotland.

From Broadway Baby *****

Written by award winning playwright Elinor Cook, Out of Love is a stunning piece of new writing which conveys the absolute power of female friendship, something which is often overlooked in favour of romantic storylines.

Lorna and Grace grow up and grow apart as friends do, but this visceral, theatrical triumph maps their individual changes and the developments in their friendship over 30 years. Gripping, moving and potent, there is no element of this story or production which has been overlooked, leaving the audience feeling immensely satisfied by what they have just seen.

In a story in which the main theme is friendship, the correct portrayal of Lorna and Grace’s
relationship is imperative. The palpable connection and understanding between Katie Elin-Salt and Sally Messham (Grace and Lorna respectively) of both their individual characters and their characters’ interactions results in one of the purest and most honest depictions of lifelong friends to ever grace the stage. Special mention must be given to Hasan Dixon, who plays every man in the play and makes each individually identifiable with ease and rapidity, something which is necessary so as not to get lost in the tangles of Cook’s story.

The writing is intelligent, witty and heart-breaking. It is clear that Cook is telling stories which need to be brought to life onstage, and this is capably done by director James Grieve. He has obvious faith in Cook’s prowess, relying on her words as opposed to any props, while also injecting feeling and emotion through the actions of the characters. The movement director Jennifer Jackson also adds to this story, using the actor’s bodies to convey emotion beyond what is scripted.

The highlight of this stunning show was the innovative and heart-wrenchingly beautiful lighting design. Peter Small utilises a myriad of LEDs to both snap between different times and places, and to heighten the visceral, emotional moments in this brilliant performance. Sudden changes in lighting immediately alter the atmosphere, allowing the scenes to tumble after each other and conveying the feeling of 30 years passing in the blink of an eye.

Polished, sharp and stunning, there is no way to fault this performance. Out of Love is skilfully written and this company could not have done better justice to this writing.

From the Stage ****

Elinor Cook’s new play Out of Love is a celebration of female friendship. A close friendship can be as rich and hot and nurturing as a romantic bond and yet we don’t always afford them the same space and value in the stories we tell. Cook’s play is a corrective.

Lorna and Grace have been friends since they were kids. They teach each other how to kiss. They learn about men together. They learn how to be women. Life takes them in different directions and things come between them, but their friendship remains a constant.

Cook deftly sketches in the differences between them in terms of class and family background. She also writes intelligently about their differing relationships with their bodies. Grace adores sex. Lorna is more ambivalent, but she is never without a boyfriend and has never really been single since the age of 13.

James Grieve’s warm and engaging production handles the play’s time hopping structure effectively and makes great use of the intimacy of the Roundabout space. There are strong performances from Sally Messham as Lorna and particularly Katie Elin-Salt as the complicated, clamorous Grace.

Hasan Dixon impressively conveys all the men in their lives: their brothers, fathers, boyfriends – and one spectacularly obnoxious boss. It’s a tender, well-crafted piece of writing, particularly refreshing in the way it talks about the pleasures of sex. Some of the emotional beats later in the play don’t quite land, but it beautifully captures the fire and glory of close friendship.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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